Brooklyn Death Trip*

January 12, 1893
“Henry BOERUM, an oysterman, who lives in his shanty on Plum's Marsh, Jamaica Bay, had a narrow escape from freezing to death on Wed. While out in his boat on Jamaica Bay, it became fastened in an ice floe.”

March 22, 1909
“Seized with an attack of vertigo as he sat in a chair at his home today John LAW, 23 years old, of 163 Utica Avenue fell to the floor. He sustained lacerations and contusions of the face and head and was removed to St. Mary's Hospital by Dr. McCluskey.”

 October 18, 1906
“Nora MURRAY, 28 years old, a waitress in the lunch room of the Commercial High School, Albany Avenue and Dean Street, was bitten yesterday on the thumb by a large tarantula which was concealed in a bunch of bananas. It was feared for a time that Miss MURRAY would
lose her arm as a consequence.”

January 10, 1871
“James GREGAN was drowned yesterday while cutting ice on the meadows in Fourth Avenue.”

August 15, 1888
“While Gertrude SCHERMERHORN, of 75 Lawrence Street was walking with her mother at Willoughby and Jay Streets Monday night, a stylishly dressed young man who carried a cane, poured a bottle of ink on her silk dress and spoiled it. The young man is not known.”
January 9, 1879
“Mary FOX, aged twenty-two years, a servant in the employ of
Mr. Orestes P. QUINTARD, of No. 158 Sterling Place, by accident yesterday afternoon, severely cut her foot with an axe.”

August 28, 1877 
“A verdict of suicide was today rendered by a Coroner's jury in the case of Valentine LEM, who shot himself near Evergreen Cemetery. The wife was too poor to bury the remains, but took the rifle home.”

August 13, 1887
“A member of the Coney Island police force last evening found near the Oriental Hotel a bottle containing a small quantity of brandy. Soaking in the liquor was a piece of paper on which had been written the following: “This ship has gone down ten miles off Sandy Hook, with all her cargo of rice and ten souls. There is nothing to save us, as we have not been seen and our signals not heard. The last survivors to the bark Victor H. T. Vallience.” It was dated Aug. 1, 1885.”

June 12, 1879
Deaths of a Week.
Mortality Report of the Board of Health. 
Measles: 1
Scarlet Fever: 8
Diphtheria: 16
Whooping Cough: 2
Erysipelas: 1
Diarrhea: 3
Dysentery: 1
Cholera infantum: 4
Cholera - mortius: 1
Entero Colitis: 2
Remittent fever: 5
Inanition: 1
Delirium tremens: 1
Cancer of breast: 1
Cancer of face: 1
Cancer of liver: 1
Cancer of pelvis: 1
Marasmus: 1
Consumption: 31
Tub. meningitis: 5
Hydrocephalus: 1
Meningitis: 7
Apoplexy: 3
Acute Hydrocephlia: 1
Softening of the brain: 1
Paralysis: 2
Anemia of brain: 1
Epilepsy: 2
Convulsions: 4
Dementia: 1
Melancholia: 1
Insanity: 1
Sunstroke: 1
Disease of heart: 2
Fatty deg. of heart: 2
Hypertrophy of heart: 4
Val. disease of heart: 2
Laryngitis: 1
Bronchitis: 6
Pneumonia: 12
Cong. of lungs: 1
Gastritis: 1
Gastro enteritis: 1
Peritonitis: 1
Hepatitis: 1
Nephritis: 2
Bright's disease: 3
Diabetes: 1
Uterine tumor: 1
Spinal disease: 2
Premature birth: 2
Preterm birth: 2
Cyanosis: 1
Dentition: 5
Flooding: 1
Puerperal convulsions: 1
Puerperal Metritis: 1
Asthenia: 1
Burns: 1
Drowning: 1
Falls: 2
Killed by motor: 1
Killed by blow: 1
Run over by steam car: 1
* cf. Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy, 1973. The Wisconsin Death Trip Flickr stream here.  
News items from the fantastically sprawling Brooklyn Genealogy
images from the Brooklyn Museum Flickr stream  


The real Gashlycrumb Tinies

because it's perfectly reasonable to use beer and coffins to teach the ABCs
A late adaptation of "The Tragical Death of an Apple Pye"
A chapman (also called Running, Walking or Flying Stationers)— an itinerant book and broadside seller
Oh dear, someone's let the Elephant into the room again.
Ephemera Fair 32 this past weekend
Doug, Sam and I went up to Old Greenwich for Ephemera 32, the antique paper and printed matter fair held by the Ephemera Society of America. It was more paper, posters, postcards, business cards, autographs and advertising than you ever thought could possibly survive the decades, priced from a couple dollars to several thousand. There we stumbled upon a large and (to a bottom-level ephemera collector) breathtakingly expensive scrapbook of brightly hand-colored woodblock illustrations seemingly culled from a series of British children’s books. The latest image appears to date from about 1840.
All were affixed to pages of linen edged in red silk and were bound in a now-disintegrating cover marked “Juvenile Scrapbook” and “B. de B. Russell.” We were unable to get it out of our minds as we drank our tepid coffee in the lunch area.

Dear Reader, we bought it.
More on the scrapbook as information surfaces.*

Now, on to some background research: Stories, ballads, rhymes and popular tales of piety were passed down through the generations verbally. These oral trasmissions started to be written down and printed in the 16th century as broadsides, leaflets and booklets called chapbooks. These were popular and cheap—and cheaply produced— texts of instruction of any sort, typically from 8 to 32 pages and sold by itinerant peddlers called chapmen. “Chap” is etymologically related to an old (Middle?) English word for “trade” (see place name Cheapside in London), and by extension, cheap. Chapbooks in the form of manuals of instruction and entertainment specifically for children became popular in the mid-1700s. These small chapbooks and other printed matter proliferated and gradually took the place of the medieval educational form of hornbooks—the alphabet carved on a wooden paddle and literally covered in a transparent sheet of horn. (There were folding cardboard items called “battledores” that were also used as instructional items in the early 1800s. Named after the paddles used in the game of shuttlecocks, the ones I've seen dont actually look like paddles and dont seem to offer any benefit from having this more complicated folded form. A wash if you ask me.)

Certain publishers became known for this sort of printing expressly. The Newberys of St. Paul's Churchyard, London, for instance—proprietor, son, stepson and nephew— published a couple of thousand titles over the period 1740-1814, including A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, Little Goody Two-Shoes, and The Newtonian System of Philosophy Adapted to the Capacities of Young Gentlemen and Ladies.

Just about everything captivates me about these things: their small, beautifully worn and weathered form; the texture of the printing and hand coloring; the elliptical, incongruous, sometimes morbid text; and of course, the strong, graphic illustrations (The celebrated engraver Thomas Bewick and his brother started out carving woodprints for children’s books in the mid -late 1700s. These illustrations were copied, reused out of context, and adapted for decades).

You may have already noticed more than a passing resemblance to the work of Edward Gorey. I wonder if he amassed an actual collection of these? Or was he just proficient in the curious ways of the chapbook...
All images from these sites:
Banbury Chap Books and Nursery Toy Book Literature, 1890 from Google books
The Historical Children's Literature database at the University of Washington—worth hours of perusal!

*In doing feverish research since the Saturday purchase we’ve discovered the scrapbook belonged to
someone named “Blois de Blois Russell”, an Oxford alum who died at 22.


aesthetic consumerism notes: an update

The photo on the left is from the June 06 Martha Stewart Living, on the right is the Baldizzi kitchen as recreated to c.1935 at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.

The Museum is an imaginarium of immigrant struggle. Its cleaned-up, prettified tableaux are irritatingly appealing to me. "People suffered in these stifling hell holes," I have to remind myself... and yet...that linoleum is...
really cute. Somehow the privations of the past become... aspirational./
The Martha aesthetic
rarefies the commonplace and defamiliarizes it
. It takes the everyday and makes it exclusive.//
update: I posted the surreal juxtaposition of Martha Stewart Living and a kitchen in the Lower East Side Tenement Museum at top 5-1/2 years ago. If the Tenement Museum represents the masses of yesteryear cozied up for an afternoon's tour, and Martha Stewart created an aspirational, nostalgic version of that long-ago for today's upscale consumer cognoscenti, what does the Pottery Barn catalog I got recently (above) represent? Dumbing down the rarefied nostalgia of yesteryear's masses for today's masses? Pottery Barn's ticking stripe ironing board covers and French wire hampers share space with prop rotary fans, faux washboard "art" and actual cast-iron hand irons. Seriously, PB is selling old coal-heated hand irons (scavanged from India) and fake washboards to hang in your laundry room. There's something odd going on in the aesthetic zeitgeist when a museum and a mass market catalog look alike. Where is Susan Sontag when you need her?

In related news, I have irrefutable evidence from that same catalog that my own home decorating style has jumped the shark. Scattered old wooden and metal letters? check. framed flea market-sourced antique buttons? check. Animal horns? I'm afraid so. Rusted metal industrial detritus? Color-grouped depression-era pottery? Done and done. Regardless of whether it's time for a change anyway, what does one do when one's formerly "personal" style, accrued over the years from here and there, is on wholesale offer at Pottery Barn? When anyone can buy all their 'vintage-inspired' needs at one fell swoop, what happens to the genuine collection? This nothing new — I'm sure all the peerage of Britain cough into their handkerchiefs at the sight of Ralph Lauren Home—it's just happened so rapidly and completely. And I happened to feel it personally.

I'm not saying I originated a style, I simply gravitated to the objects I was drawn to and my sensibility grew up around that. A sensibility already familiar to some, yes; there was John Derian or Anthropologie or ABC carpet along the way, for reference/inspiration/validation. Now my apartment could be any Brooklyn boutique— or Restoration Hardware or Pottery Barn outlet. It feels phony. Yet I still like the horns and the 19th century type specimens and the twee rusted objets. The cognitive dissonance is killing me.

[several comments here are from the original post]
I'd just gotten this linen grain sack (!) up in Hudson, NY when I got the PB catalog.
Their vintage-inspired linen pillow cover, bottom.
five images above, my apartment

Pottery Barn


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